Lauren Ipsum (plumerai) wrote,
Lauren Ipsum

freewrite, Long Binh, 1970

The first story, the official story, about my father in Vietnam was that his education bought him a spot in the office, ordering supplies. Then came a story about helping at arrivals, of a desperate, crying young man saying, "I'm from Texas too, don't send me out there, please, as a friend, don't send me out there." Then a whisper from my bewildered mother of how there were "things" that he told her fifteen years after his return, and later denied when she asked him for more. I say "things" because that is the word she used. It may well have been the word he used--I can hear it, my red-faced, road-rage, soft-hearted father who loves to whistle: "Deborah, there were things."

Like everything with my father's experience in Vietnam, though, I do not hear it. I do not see it, except for our Christmas china, not a single piece of which broke on the journey back home (only in 1991 when I put the gravy pot in the microwave). I have nothing to go on but fragments, so I am forced to imagine. Hence, "Deborah, there were things."

It is ambiguous, murky, a constantly shifting ink blot with no place for me to get a foothold. I came here to get a foothold and still have nothing. Nobody will take me to Long Binh, his former station--"There's nothing to see," says the driver; "There's no way to get there" says the (private) tour company; "No," says the (communist) tour company. I want to see it, this industrial complex built on top of the enormous ammo dump. I know there is nothing there, not even fragments of my father, for those fragments might be imagined. He could have walked away on his last day, put Vietnam in a plastic bag, and left it on the plane along with a 1971 newspaper. He could carry it with him every day; it could be a part of slammed doors and popping veins and spoiled soccer matches. I won't ever know.
Tags: dad, vietnam

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